I have been getting a lot of inquiries on what kind of filter system do I use. Which of them I prefer?How much does it cost?Which one's to buy? What is the difference between specific brands?Do I get casts? And so on...
I started with the Hoya, Kenko and Singh-Ray brands. I have used their circular ND's (neutral density) filters: ND8 (3 stop), ND64 (6 stops), ND400 (9 stops) and CPL's (circular polarizers). I have also tried Singhray's gold-n-blue polarizer and fancied infrared photography before. As for GND's (graduated neutral density) filters, I started with Hitech's GND's both Soft and Hard edge.
I have struggled on choosing the best filters that would suit my needs. Spent a lot of unnecessary $ from buying and testing. Settled with Lee filters for the longest time (ND8, ND106 square filters, CPL and GND's) until I found NiSi Filters. So I hope this review can help you decide which filter to get.
A friend of mine showed me his NiSi V5 filter kit during the last quarter of 2015. Was a bit hesitant at first but the moment I saw how NiSi incorporated their CPL on the adaptor ring itself, I was SOLD. Slid three square filters into the slots and to our surprise, no edge sighting at 16mm. I said to myself that I need to get this filter system. After a month of waiting, I finally got my first NiSi V5 Holder kit, a NiSi 6 stops and a Hard GND .9 (3 stops).
NiSi V5 Filter holder kit
The system comes with a holder, CPL, 82, 77, 72 and 67mm adaptor rings
Here's a short video on how to install a 100mm NiSi Filter Holder V5-Pro Kit on your lens
I purchased my first NiSi Filter Kit from an online store in Hong Kong.
I shoot RAW, therefore I can easily fix unwanted casts in post-processing. However, I’m also that “I want to see spot on output from my cameras LCD” kind of person. I end up tweaking the in-camera white balance, picture style and WB Shift/Bkt on the fly just to get the colors that would suit my taste.
I find that LEE Filters has that "cool" cast in general. As you go further/darker towards their 6 stops (little stopper) and 10 stops (big stopper), the blue casts gets really annoying. I hate bumping up my white balance to 10K kelvin just to get the colors checked.
NiSi Filters on the other hand, has zero casts except for the V5 CPL. Personally, the V5 CPL has a slightly warm tinge (which I really love) that greatly compliments the colors on an image. Who doesn’t? Their 6 stops is outstanding.
Check out the comparison below. No filter VS with NiSi Filters. Image taken from Hamnoy, Norway.
After sunset, in-camera profile was set to standard @ 8000 Kelvin.
NiSi V5 System, NiSi CPL, NiSi ND 6 stops + NiSi soft edge GND .9 stops
WHICH ONES TO GET
I believe that I can get the shots that I want with these filters in my bag:
NiSi CPL - It allows you to manage reflections and pull contrasts between the clouds and the sky.
NiSi ND8 (3 stops) - Allows you manage a semi-lit scene, usually before sunrise or right after susnet.
NiSi ND64 (6 stops) - Perfect for golden hour and long exposures.
NiSi GND soft edge .9 (3 stops) - To balance the exposure of the sky and the foreground where there are diagonal subjects on the horizon. Trees, mountains, etc.
NiSi GND hard edge .9 (3 stops) - To balance the exposure of the sky and the foreground where there are no subjects on the horizon. Coasts, sea etc.
If you plan to invest more on filters, you can consider the following:
NiSi ND1000 (10 stops) - If you fancy shooting mid-day or ultra long exposures.
NiSi Reverse GND Filter .9 (3 stops) - Used when the sun is on the horizon.
NiSi Horizon ND 1.2 (4 stops) - It is used specifically for sunset/sunrise where there is a strong direct light on the horizon or any part of the frame.
WHY NiSi Filters?
CPL (Circular Polarizer) - A genius and efficient design. NiSi incorporated the CPL onto the adaptor ring itself. Compared to Lee, It takes little time to attach the entire NiSi system on the lens.
Inclusion of Adaptor Rings - With the adaptor rings attached to my other lenses, I can easily unscrew the 82mm with CPL from one lens and screw it on my other lens.
Glass made filters - Based on my years of experience with resin filters, I believe that glass filters are more resistant to scratches
Aluminium - The filter holder is made from black powder coated aviation-grade billet aluminium (NOT plastic) and it's light.
Cast - IMHO, the slight warm cast of NiSi filter compliments my image. NiSi's 6 and 10 stops filter has no annoying blue cast in it.
No edge sighting - No visible edge sighting on 16mm. (Screen capture at 16mm with filters on all slots)
Filter case - Comes with a well made filter case.
The only concern that I have with the V5 Holder are the slots. I feel that the slots of the V5 are too tight. I need to press down my lens every time I pull out an ND or a GND. I had to loosen the slot's individual screws a few turns to make it manageable. They improved this on the new NiSi V5-Pro.
I Shoot With NiSi
Last November 2016, I was able to fully test the NiSi V5 Filter kit going around photographing Lofoten Islands, Norway.
It was golden hour in Fredvang, Norway. The sun was rising on the far right of the frame. I won't be able to pull off a properly exposed image with the given dynamic range of the scene. So without filters, I usually take multiple exposures. One exposed for the shadows and another one for the highlights. Then combine them in post processing.
Exposing for the shadows (without filters)
Exposing for the highlights (without filters)
Now, with the help of NiSi Filters, I don't have to do multiple shots (above) of different exposures anymore.
I attached the NiSi V5 Holder, NiSi CPL and NiSi GND
The reflections were enhanced just by using the NiSi's CPL (Circular Polarizer), then I balance out the dynamic range between the sky and the foreground with the use of the NiSi hard .9 GND (Graduated Neutral Density Filter).
Single shot raw file using NiSi Filters without any adjustments
Adjusted highlights, shadows, contrasts and distortion. Added "orton" effect and painting with light. Color correction and saturation to taste in post processing. This is the final image after processing a single raw file using NiSi Filters.
Final edited image
NiSi V5 vs NiSi V5-Pro
I was fortunate to be contacted by NiSi Filters this year. They sent me the NiSi Filter V5-PRO holder kit with the new NC CPL "enhanced landscape cpl" and a bonus V5 Lens cap.
100mm V5-Pro filter holder kit and NiSi V5 Lens cap, courtesy of NiSi Filters
What's in the box?
3 slot holder
82, 77, 72 and 67 adaptor rings
NiSi three slot holder
V5-Pro's slots are better than the V5 version. I find that the filters can smoothly slide in and out of the holder with very minimal force but still snug enough to handle outdoor conditions.
I have to further test the difference between the two cpl's in terms of color casts.
The V5-Pro's 82mm adaptor ring is better than the V5. It is easier to screw and unscrew the CPL.
77, 72 and 67 adaptor rings - same
Leather case - same
NiSi V5-Pro Filter Holder Kit is an improved version of the V5. Here's a short video comparing both filters. By the way, I dug out all my old filters (Lee and Singhray) to try the new V5-Pro slots out. So if you want to know if you can use your old/other brand ND's and GND's? The answer is YES.
NiSi V5 VS NiSi V5-Pro Filter Holder Kit video
BONUS: V5 lens cap
I find that the NiSi V5 lens cap is a must! It's an outer plastic cover/cap that protects the NiSi ring with cpl as you leave it attached to your lens.
I did an unboxing video upon receiving the V5-Pro Holder and V5 lens cap
After a year of using NiSi filters, I can now say that I am very happy with their product. Considered as one of my best investment. If you have any questions with regards to NiSi Filters, fell free to message me anytime. For now, I'll leave you a collection of my images taken with the NiSi V5 Filter Kit and NiSi Filters.